Thursday, August 31, 2006

a birchmere breakthrough

News FLASH: Just Up The Pike gets some love from the Express, along with the rest of our blogging friends in Silver Spring. It's about time . . .

- The Post questions whether Ike Leggett may be too likable. But until Ike acknowledges my presence, I refuse to like him. I would also like him to hold actual opinions instead of pandering, but that's a bit much.

- FINALLY: Silver Spring, Singular first reported that the Birchmere is opening a second location in Downtown Silver Spring, and today the Post sheds more light on what could be the next big thing in what I'd like to call "Broadway on the Beltway." It just goes to show what a little citizen input can do.

I'm not too excited about the format, though. A listening club with "the sounds of Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris"? I'd like to see more variety, maybe like the 9:30 Club or Black Cat - or, if we're talking about suburban clubs - the Recher Theatre (pictured) in Towson. Folk rock may not find a huge following in Silver Spring.

Oh, well. It's better than a parking lot . . .

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

east county in review

Purple Line UPDATE: Karen Roper said "I'm gonna take every candidate and every newspaper and show 'em this is where their money's goin'." It looks like the Gazette finally bit and took the tour. They even gave the article a headline referencing Johnny Cash. Real slick . . .

On the ICC: Two years after some sketchy tree-clearing during construction of the Burtonsville Bypass, last month a drilling crew for the ICC hit a water line, sending sediment into the Paint Branch. Does the state know how to build an "environmentally-sensitive" highway without hurting the environment?

FINALLY: The D.C. area gets a few superlatives today. U.S. Census surveys state that we have the second-worst congestion in the nation, second only to New York City. On the bright side, however, we're also the second-wealthiest region in the country, second only to San Jose. And Loudoun County, where planners are considering a development south of Dulles Airport the size of Columbia, has become the wealthiest county in the nation. Fairfax, Howard and Montgomery are "not far behind," says the Post, which does little to alleviate my disappointment with all the incredibly over-priced estate homes going up down the street from my former high school.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

walking the purple line: update

BUT FIRST: Steve Silverman is for punks? So says Sprawling Towards Montgomery. I think it goes well with the Stop Emo and corresponding Bump Emo taggers that have struck everywhere from Kensington all the way down to Takoma Park. If anyone knows about the "Stop Emo" tags, tell me! The whole county wants to know.

I received an e-mail on a Silver Spring listserv about MTA officials taking the Purple Line walking tour through East Silver Spring. It looks like MTA is considering a tunnel instead of the more destructive surface or cut-and-cover proposals along Silver Spring and Thayer avenues - which may have emerged as their route of choice - but only as a way to get through the CBD, not the neighborhoods. Also: doesn't novelist George Pelecanos live in East Silver Spring? I think it'd be interesting to see what happens if he used his [relative] notoriety to push for or against the Purple Line or specific routes. I mean, if he lost his house . . . where would we get our D.C.-centric crime fiction?

Monday, August 28, 2006

a triumphant return to college park

Well, Just Up The Pike is now settled in at our new headquarters in College Park and getting ready for another exciting year of school. For those of you who think I'll forget about East County, don't worry: I can see the very top of the Calverton Tower from my building.

Anyway: Robert Fustero got interviewed by the Post! It's about time. Maybe I will think about casting a protest vote . . . ?

Thanks to MoCo Progressive for the heads-up.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

thoughts from Up The Pike

I went down to the Silver Theatre with a friend today to see Little Miss Sunshine, which I recommend hesitantly (in the event you've already had your fill of indie films about dysfunctional families). On the way from the parking garage to the theatre I passed City Place, where I ran into five black kids, not much younger than myself. They circled us, causing me to think the worst. Then, one of them asked: "Do you have any quarters?" I said no, and they left us alone and free to see our film at the art house theatre in the gentrifying downtown. And I couldn't help but feel a little guilty for being scared.

Gentrification is messy. City Place gets a eight-story office tower on the roof, meaning that Kid's For Less will have to go; but the suburbanites still won't walk south of Wayne Avenue. I mean, I really wish my parents had never decided to move away from Downtown. Maybe then I'd be the one laughing at all these scared people who finally have a little bit of the city to call their own.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

walking the purple line

Karen Roper (center) discusses the Purple Line on Thayer Avenue as a Ride-On bus speeds past. To see more pictures of the Purple Line walking tour, check out Just Up The Pike's "Purple Line" slideshow, featuring this and other explorations of the proposed transitway with local politicians and concerned residents.

I would not want to be walking down a dark alley and meet Karen Roper, East Silver Spring resident-turned-activist - especially if that alley were going to become a rail bed where hulking trains speed through. This neighborhood in the shadow of Downtown is on the verge of being divided by the very thing that was supposed to connect communities inside the Beltway - the Purple Line. An East Silver Spring resident for twenty-two years, Roper is more than a little upset by the proposed Purple Line routes through her community and has banded together with friends and neighbors to fight the project until another solution can be found.

Her weapon? A walking tour of East Silver Spring, aimed at showing just how ill-conceived the Purple Line routes through her neighborhood may be. "I'm gonna take every candidate and every newspaper and show 'em," Roper said, "this is where their money's goin'." So far, she has taken over a dozen local politicians on the tour, including all three Democratic candidates for County Executive and several candidates for the State legislature.

My tour covered the Thayer Avenue and Sligo Avenue routes, which are both above-ground, except for a half-mile portion of the Thayer Avenue option that would route trains between several dozen houses. MTA is unclear as to whether this would be a tunnel or the far-cheaper cut-and-cover method. According to a survey done by East Silver Spring Civic Association, two hundred mature trees would be lost through cut-and-cover. Bob Colvin, ESSCA president, added that the Purple Line as proposed would not do anything to help the severe congestion in the neighborhood as it would force reductions in already-spotty bus service, take lanes from local streets, and encourage denser development. And, worst of all, Roper pointed out, the Purple Line would require the taking of thirty small businesses on Sligo Avenue and parts of or entire residential properties, destroying the neighborhood's character.

On Sligo Avenue, Roper said, the MTA's land takings would only go as far as the porches of homes along the road, requiring them to be ripped off. "It's the most insulting process," she continued, "when they [the MTA] tell you they're gonna take your porch and say no one's going to notice."

The mood of the group I was with - Karen Roper, Bob Colvin, Mary Beth Flournoy from SSTOP and resident Diane Svenonius - was not just one of frustration but sheer anger at what they view as a "political game" by the MTA and County government to harm this traditionally working-class neighborhood in the name of traffic relief and economic growth. They said that, over several years of community meetings and open houses, the MTA has withheld information and done everything possible to dodge opposition, going so far as to hastily add the Thayer Avenue route last March. "Politicians laughed" when they heard about routing trains along Fenton Street to serve the Thayer and Sligo routes, Roper said.

However, they say those same politicians have been unresponsive to their concerns. County Council hopeful Hans Riemer was "behind the curve" on the issue, Roper said, also deriding County Councilmen George Leventhal and Tom Perez as "Takoma Park elitists" who shot down proposed routes on Route 410 through their community but have turned a deaf ear to the concerns of East Silver Spring. "We wanna live like Takoma Park, but they won't let us. Why can't we?" she asked.

I didn't need an answer, however. Throughout the tour I was repeatedly told that the MTA would have to compensate people who lost property to the Purple Line. If the government got people to sell their houses en masse, they could re-zone the land for higher-density uses, enabling developers to profit. This is a familiar theme in County politics, and I was sad to see it brought up once again. I firmly believe in the merits of Transit-Oriented Development, especially in this area because of to our traffic and need for affordable housing.

Going into the walking tour, I couldn't help but think that Roper, the East Silver Spring Civic Association and SSTOP were just NIMBYs trying to make trouble and keep their property values afloat. However, it's just not that simple. In terms of engineering, environmental justice and social justice, the Thayer Avenue and Sligo Avenue routes of the Purple Line are a potential disaster. The streets are narrow and hilly, and running light-rail trains along them would be dangerous both to neighborhood residents and potentially transit riders. Cutting down over two hundred trees would permanently destroy the tree cover and create serious problems with erosion and storm drainage.

East Silver Spring is a neighborhood of small cottages and bungalows, of simple apartment buildings where kids play outside, of corner stores and lemonade stands. There are no McMansions of the kind you already see in Woodside, the neighborhood north of Downtown near where I grew up. There are none of the chain stores that have proliferated a few blocks north in the Downtown Silver Spring complex. This neighborhood is ripe for gentrification, and quite a few people stand to lose their homes and livelihoods if this project is not handled correctly.

I was informed, however, that ESSCA or SSTOP are not opposed to the Purple Line. Unlike Save Our Sligo Avenue, another opposition group not associated with SSTOP, whose website has a report titled Bi-County Transitway: Wrong for Montgomery County, Maryland, ESSCA and SSTOP both endorse the Purple Line - and in East Silver Spring, so long as it is built in a deep tunnel. The tunnel is imperative, Bob Colvin said, to not making current traffic on local streets even worse.

I can still remember the days when Silver Spring and all of East Montgomery County were considered blighted. While that sentiment has been all but removed, there remains to be a discussion on what will happen to Silver Spring now that it is a hot commodity, and the Purple Line is at the forefront of it. The Red Line made Silver Spring what it is - how will the Purple Line add to it? Or will it take away the very things that have made Silver Spring so desirable? Therein lies the question - and, possibly, a solution.

candidates' forum on low-income housing

First of all, my apologies for taking so long to get this out. I make my triumphant return to College Park and two days and am trying to get everything together, but I promise that everything I have to say - both about the forum and the Purple Line walking tour - will be said as soon as possible.

Last night I made the drive out to Bethesda for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington's Forum on Housing for Low-Income People, where all five County Executive candidates were in attendance. I was under the impression it was going to be a debate but, instead, a moderator read out three questions and each candidate had seven minutes to answer the questions. After that, the moderator read two follow-up questions, which each candidate had two minutes to respond to. This was followed by ice cream sundaes with a generous variety of toppings.

Robin Ficker was his usual self, asking to stand when he spoke, gunning the audience for applause (which annoyed the moderator) and making the kind of outrageous (by Montgomery County standards) statements that have earned him a reputation as the "lone outsider" in County politics, he told me.

By not taking developer contributions, Ficker said, he would be able to pressure developers to build low-income housing (at this point, the woman in front of me muttered, "who's going to do that?") and mentioned the BoKlok houses that IKEA builds in Europe. For those not familiar with BoKlok, I suggest you check it out. I mean, IKEA already sells us cheap furniture; what's to say people wouldn't live in an IKEA house?

Republican Chuck Floyd spoke extensively on his background, including his career at the Department of State and his childhood on a farm, where "we didn't know what poor was," he stated. In both rounds of the forum, he mentioned using public-private partnerships and job training to help people get out of poverty. They're both effective solutions, and already in effect, so I wasn't too impressed by it.

Political Yak (who I met!) said that Democrat Robert Fustero
stole the show
, and I'd say it wasn't far from the truth. Fustero was the only candidate on stage not wearing a suit, but the main reason he stood out was because he had a better understanding of poverty than the other candidates. Fustero knows the homeless: they are his friends; they are his house-guests; in his run for governor four years ago, a homeless woman was his running-mate.

"A shelter is like a handout," he said, illustrating a plan to build a five-story apartment building at Progress Place in Silver Spring where formerly-homeless people could rent efficiency apartments at $50/week under the condition that they underwent job training and mental help. He also stressed a need to offer four-percent mortgages to new homeowners. Lower interest rates allow families to afford a larger mortgage, meaning they can buy a more expensive house. Fustero's plan would allow families to own in Montgomery County without putting more strain on the existing Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit program.

Ike Leggett rarely looked at the other speakers during the forum, instead staring at the table or making cursory glances at Steve Silverman. He began his response by insisting that Montgomery County was already "very generous" and discussing his childhood in Louisiana. "Mr. Floyd joked earlier that he didn't know he was poor," Leggett said. "Well, I knew I was poor."

When my mother came to this country thirty years ago, she lived with eleven relatives in a one-room apartment in Mount Pleasant. She doesn't have to tell people she was poor. Since when has poverty become something you wear on your sleeve?

Even though he ran over his allotted time, Ike Leggett never put forth any real solutions. He said he would make the County "a national leader" in providing affordable housing, but insisted that we had to work with the State legislature (putting his clout as head of the Democratic Party to use) to get funding. It's all good and well, but I doubt homeless people can live in clout.

It wasn't until he visited the homeless men's shelter on Gude Drive that Steve Silverman understood "what it was like" to be homeless. As chair of the County Council Housing Committee, Silverman said he had fought to increase the rental assistance credit. "We have extraordinary resources and we should be prepared to use them," he said, fighting Leggett's suggestion that Montgomery County's wealth makes the state unwilling to give us funding.

When asked about rent controls, none of the candidates said they were necessary in Montgomery County, but only Steve Silverman would say something like "I'm not terrifically concerned [about rent increases] if you're at The Grand on Wisconsin Avenue," which earned a few laughs but completely side-stepped the issue, which he never quite returned to.

The forum ended with terrific applause and a brief blessing from the Monsignor, which caught me by surprise. All in all, I think it was everything it was expected to be. Robin Ficker continued to heckle the Establishment; Chuck Floyd is still dreaming about the State Department; Robert Fustero made the kind of common-sense statements that the Thirteenth-Wealthiest County in America cannot wrap their heads around; and Ike Leggett and Steve Silverman attempted to look like the "common man" but came off as politicians, which is what they are and what we hope to get in November.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

dan has a night out . . .

County Executive candidates Robin Ficker and Robert Fustero talk about their lengthy history together in County politics at the Forum for Low-Income Housing in Bethesda.

The double-header I promised earlier this week just happened. And, let me tell you, this is the first time I got home from Bethesda in forty minutes - and I took the long way home.

This evening, I was led by some members from the East Silver Spring Civic Association and Silver Spring/Thayer Opposed to the Plan on a tour of East Silver Spring, where I got a pretty sobering look at what exactly the MTA wants to build there.

After that, I went to the Forum on Affordable Housing in Bethesda, hosted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. I'll be honest - I was more interested in meeting the candidates than the actual content, even though as an architecture student I'm interested in housing the masses.

So: Chuck Floyd made eye contact with me; Ike Leggett shook my hand and then blew me off; Steve Silverman's campaign manager was a little upset by my portrayal of him. But I did get to talk to both Robin Ficker and Robert Fustero - and, I have to say, I truly admire what they do. And they're easy to talk to. If I could have gotten a word in with Ike Leggett, I wonder if I could've talked to him about those emo kids who hang out in Downtown Silver Spring.

I will talk more about all of these things in the morning. Time to rest, think about the issues, and dream of those apartments IKEA builds in Europe.

valerie ervin drops the "m" word

I haven't said too much about the current push for a pedestrian tunnel under Georgia Avenue for the Forest Glen metro station. At first, I was a little frustrated by the concept of a tunnel - it reminds me of all those skywalks in cities like Baltimore that allow the local streets to be turned into de facto expressways - and, of course, there is that spectacular (and existing) eight-million-dollar bridge across the Beltway. But as someone who ran across Columbia Pike on a daily basis this summer, I can see why Forest Glen residents might like an easier time crossing the street.

And, this morning, I got an email from Adam Pagnucco, Forest Estates resident who called into NewsTalk on NewsChannel 8 yesterday with a question for guests and County Council candidates Valerie Ervin and Hans Riemer. He asked Ervin and Riemer about the proposed tunnel, congestion at Georgia Avenue and Forest Glen Road, and their position on the proposed development at the Forest Glen metro station. This is what Valerie Ervin had to say:
This gentleman is asking a very good question because the way that Montgomery County has done its planning is to focus density around Metro. Unfortunately, what we're seeing now is so much density around Metro that there must be some place where we can cut off as we're counting the numbers of new housing developments going in around Metro. I see it as a big concern and I would like to support A) the tunnel under Georgia Avenue, and B) either a moratorium or some sort of a tax to keep, to make sure that the development doesn't go way overboard. And a lot of people think that that's what the case is.
This is also essentially Ike Leggett's position on growth: if we stop it, the traffic will magically disappear. So Valerie Ervin proposes a moratorium around the Forest Glen metro station, preventing people from living near Metro - which can take quite a few cars off Georgia Avenue and possibly save a few souls from getting hit. That doesn't make any sense.

And this is what Hans Riemer had to say:
I've been a big advocate for the tunnel. I've had to cross that intersection many times and I've actually been out helping to support the community and advocating for that tunnel. It would cost about 8 to 10 million dollars. I think it would be a good expenditure for the state. What's needed from the council member is coordinating between the state agencies, the school system, obviously the county government to secure the funding for it and push it through.

Regarding the development there, it's important that… Now, this is WMATA's property, so it could be hard to stop. But should it go forward, it's important that it help benefit the community overall. And that means perhaps the money could be brought from that development into constructing the tunnel and make sure that any impact on the schools or the roads are mitigated. And the council member has to fight to make sure that's the case.
How about that? Let the developer help pay for the tunnel, and the schools - Adam Pagnucco said that the nearby elementary school has seven portables (well, Galway has twelve, but I'm not complaining!) - so he can build next to the Metro and give a few people a chance to ditch their cars. That sounds like a win-win situation. If you listen to the Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, they'll tell you it's bribery and hyperdensification.

The way to deal with growth is something we were all taught in elementary school: to cooperate. State and local agencies have to work together. The school system and the planning board need to meet. Homeowner's Associations should be talking to developers - talking to, not arguing with. Moratoriums are a temporary solution to a persistent problem, an edict handed down from above with little or no discussion or conversation between opposing bodies. That doesn't sound very progressive to me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

mailer time . . .

Some guy has been running around the blogs today pushing a site called If We Elect Ike, a less-than-flattering portrayal of Ike Leggett. I'm not going to say anything about it - I will let the voters make a decision themselves. So, instead, let's take a look at the latest mailers from Ike Leggett and Steve Silverman.

This is Ike Leggett's mailer:

It's heavy on his background and light on the issues, using lines like "As our County Executive Ike will fight for . . . Safer, less congested roads through support of common sense transportation solutions that always take into account community concerns" to help persuade County residents without putting forth any concrete solutions.

And this is Steve Silverman's mailer:

Steve presents a problem ("traffic"), a solution (complete with a Metro-quality map, better than the typically-seen Purple Line map) and a promise. Another political tactic - I mean, it's very easy to make promises and fail to keep them - but I feel more comfortable with Steve knowing he's actually got something to promise.

What are "common sense transportation solutions"? You could ask three Montgomery County residents and they would all have different answers. It sounds like Ike Leggett wants to pander. If you agree with the Purple Line, you could vote for Steve Silverman. If you don't, you don't vote for him. It makes the choosing easier. However, that's probably a bit too idealistic for politics, especially given the climate of this year's County elections.

Monday, August 21, 2006

as august comes to an end . . .

This is going to be a busy week at Just Up The Pike. As a counterpoint to Steve Silverman's Purple Line bus tour earlier this month, I will be attending a walking tour of Thayer Avenue, a proposed Purple Line route through East Silver Spring, hosted by SSTOP (Silver Spring/Thayer Opposed to the Plan). I can't say I'll be going in without an opinion on the Purple Line, but I will be open to what the neighborhood has to say. After all, this is their home; for everyone else, it's just scenery between Silver Spring and Langley Park.

On Wednesday, I plan to attend the forum on affordable housing being held by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. I probably won't be the only blogger there (after all, I heard about this from Russ at Political Yak), so we should have a nice discussion about it the next day.

In the meantime - MoCoPolitics has been one of the most responsible of the County bloggers this election year, both with its previous editor and the new editor, whomever he/she/it may be. They're having a discussion about the County's growth, which I encourage anyone not hiding behind the cloak of anonymity to join. This is the discussion we need to be having, not whether Steve Silverman is a shill or Ike Leggett is a waffler.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

howard county wants to pick a fight? bring it on

There's some major Montgomery-bashing happening Up The Pike in Howard County:
There are few better contrasts between the well thought out planning in Howard County and the sprawl, traffic congestion, and unnessisary reductions in the quality of life of Montgomery County and Northern Virginia.
Yes, let's talk about sprawl, Howard County. Forty years ago a man named Jim Rouse stood at a point halfway between Washington and Baltimore and said he was going to stop sprawl by building a city there in what was the middle of nowhere. Forty years ago, Montgomery County only went up as far as Calverton, roughly ten miles south. That isn't sprawl?

Man, and I was looking forward to shopping at the Mall in Columbia for back-to-school. I might have to hit up Montgomery Mall or Wheaton Plaza instead and keep my hard-earned dollars from floating up there in to the too-pristine-for-you acres of Howard County.

Friday, August 18, 2006

townhomes as unique as you are

Could a major upheaval at City Place be in the works? Silver Spring, Singular heard that Urban Outfitters could be joining another major retailer in the beleaguered mall Downtown. Another reason why East Montgomery County can finally secede from those snoots west of Rock Creek Park.

But Urban Outfitters, mecca to the tragically hip, is a bellwether of the current "Things That Are As Unique As You Are" trend in marketing. I opened my mailbox earlier this week and this is what I pulled out:

Now, I was skeptical until I turned it over . . .

What could be more unique than the brazenly Craftsman-inspired townhouses of Albany Grove going up on Briggs Chaney Road? It's wild, yet sophisticated! It's innovative, yet vintage! It's a giant middle finger pointed at Ryan Homes and everything they represent! Could it be . . . the Urban Outfitters of new townhomes? YES! And it's coming all coming to Silver Spring.

Oh, man, I feel so hip right now. My cul-de-sac never looked cooler.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

let's talk about district 4 - but first:

Many of the local bloggers are being inundated with e-mailed press releases from all of the different campaigns. Today, I got one from Hans Riemer's campaign manager about his joint endorsement with Valerie Ervin from the state chapter of the National Organization for Women. Joint endorsement? What is NOW implying - that they would like you to vote by eeny-meeny-miney-mo? Perhaps.

Anyway: later this afternoon I got a shout-out in regards to a comment I made about Marilyn Praisner, Montgomery County Councilwoman and my neighbor of sorts. (I say "neighbor of sorts" because, while her house is less than a quarter-mile from mine, the non-existent connections make walking there for a cup of sugar nearly impossible.) I would like to respond by saying that no, Marilyn Praisner did not hit a kid, nor am I inferring that this ever occurred. (If you really want to talk about reckless blogging, check out MoCo Progressive's predictions for the Attorney General race.)

And while Just Up The Pike does not do endorsements, I will say that primary opponent Mike Jones has terrible writing skills and Republican Mark D. Fennel should really try stand-up. Despite my previous frustrations with Marilyn Praisner, I have far more confidence in her than I do in either of these guys.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

purple line update (8 mile version)

One week after Steve Silverman's bus tour, Purple Line supporters held a rally in Langley Park yesterday - and people actually showed up, earning coverage from both the Post and the Gazette . And despite all of his previous belly-aching, Flanagan wants to take all the Purple Line cred for himself:
Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said that O'Malley has only recently made the Purple Line, also known as the Bi-County Transitway, an important piece of his transportation plan.

"We're happy to see that he's finally figured out where the Bi-County Transitway is," Flanagan said during an interview.
Oh, dear. O'Malley better step up . . . we're gonna have a good old-fashioned Public Transit Battle (at left; let's say Eminem is O'Malley and the other guy is . . . Michael Steele?) But Battle or no, Langley Park commuters won't be seeing any relief - even in the short run - as the owner of the Langley Park Shopping Center (pictured above with day laborers) is refusing to sell part of his property for a Takoma/Langley Crossroads transit center that would eventually be on the Purple Line.

And somewhere (possibly in Chevy Chase, teeing off at Columbia Country Club as the valet parks her Mercedes) someone is laughing heartily, confident that the Limousine Liberals are winning . . .

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

a month until the primary . . .

And I have just made a discovery: Everyone is corrupt. Over in Prince George's County, Jack Johnson has been giving high-paying jobs to his friends; in Montgomery, Dougie D and Jerry the Weast bilked County taxpayers out of $10 million for a Yeshiva in Silver Spring. And, of course, Steve Silverman took money from the developer of the Crown Farm. Just to round it out, is Robin Ficker suggesting that Ike Leggett is fighting sexual harassment charges . . . ?

So, if all of our politicians are shady . . . does it really matter who we vote for? It seems like every election is a decision between the lesser of two evils.

P.S.: I also bet Marilyn Praisner, considered to be the "grandma" of the County Council, once hit a kid.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

bobby haircut + jack johnson: friends forever?

In today's Post: Bobby Haircut is making friends with Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson, going so far as to compare him to William Donald "Archie Bunker" Schaefer.
"He's made pronouncements, kind of similar to Schaefer really, that 'I support the Democratic ticket, but if you're asking me about this administration, this is what they've done,' " the governor said.
And in return for handing over Prince George's County to the Republican Party (They have a website! I was surprised.) Ehrlich is helping Johnson with the NAACP's move to National Harbor and the Konterra development mere spitting distance from East County. However, there's one thing that Bobby Haircut will never be trusted on:
Ehrlich said the proposed 14-mile transit line from Bethesda to New Carrollton, known officially as the Bi-County Transitway, "is going to happen." The question being studied is whether it will consist of rapid bus or light-rail service, known as the Purple Line.

"You may actually have a mix. I just don't know," he said. "We're moving ahead."
Oh, my God. Robert Smith was right.

Friday, August 11, 2006

falkland chase apartments (1937-2006?)

The Falkland Chase apartments in Downtown Silver Spring are a historical landmark and one of the best examples of affordable housing in the area. When I was growing up and living in Georgian Towers, I always imagined how nice it would be to live there and have a yard.

However, the last bastion of park-like living in the city might be coming down, as Silver Spring Scene reports there are plans to tear out a section of the complex to build what is dubbed "the largest development in Downtown Silver Spring," a series of high-rises with over a thousand apartments (which would still be fewer apartments than at Summit Hills or the Blairs) and a slew of retail, including a Harris Teeter.

I stand by my pro-development statements, but I am very skeptical of this proposal. While the health of Downtown Silver Spring is reliant on some redevelopment, I'm not sure whether it has to happen there. Empty parking lots abound in the business district and across the border in D.C. Speaking of which - why hasn't D.C. gotten a piece of the Silver Spring revitalization? Let's spread the wealth and spare the Falklands, huh?

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

the anonymous have to come out now

From now on, Just Up The Pike will no longer allow anonymous commenting. The Blogger software allows you to put your name (or an alias) down when you comment, so I hope people with thoughtful, relevant things to say will do so. Any anonymous comments made after 12 midnight August 9, 2006 will be deleted.

I seriously dislike the direction this year's election has taken. People making insults at myself and others, racist comments, or just out-and-out lying from behind the shield of anonymity make it only worse. I may say things that people don't like, but at least I am willing to put my name on them.

hey! both silverman and leggett are from east county

While the anti-Silvermanites are laughing at the chicken races on Channel 7 that pre-empted coverage of the Purple Line bus tour, the Post presents what is one more in a series of stories about how Montgomery County voters are sick and tired of traffic.

And, according to a commenter on Sprawling Towards Montgomery, Steve Silverman also made an appearance on Hot 99.5 yesterday, talking about his Purple Line bus tour, which I think is good publicity for the transit-riding younger set (younger than 35, I mean).

The Purple Line enjoys very high support County-wide. It's been on the books for seventeen years. We have a right-of-way between Bethesda and Silver Spring and a nice, wide stretch of University Boulevard between Long Branch and College Park that are both ready for some tracks to be laid down. Why hasn't this happened yet? And how the hell am I supposed to believe the deliberative old "drum major" Ike Leggett is going to make it happen anytime soon?

From the Post:
Leggett, a former council member, emphasizes the need to slow development so road and transit construction can catch up. Or else, he said, "the level of growth has consumed you, and you're back where you started -- or worse."
Whether or not we slow development, the cars are going to be there, full of angry solo drivers trying to cross the County to get to work. The FDA campus will be consolidating in East County in two years, bringing seven thousand new employees to my community and untold thousands more from companies eager to locate near FDA. We're going to have some pretty nasty traffic: thank God those Route 29 interchanges are underway. But that traffic's going to be a lot worse because of the moratorium on new development in East County that lasted through the 1990's. Now they're going to be coming here from God knows where because they can't find places to live near FDA.

There has to be a better strategy to growth than simply turning it on and off like a spigot. We didn't see any new homes in East County for a decade - and what happened: the traffic got worse. The schools are more crowded. Why? Because we're less part of a County and more part of a metropolitan area with eight million people in it - and we should stop planning like the world ends at the County line. There have to be huge investments in our infrastructure no matter what happens, and they need to take place now.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

a bus ride with steve silverman

Steve Silverman poses for pictures on his way to the bus stall at the Silver Spring Metro. To see more of Silverman's bus tour, check out Just Up The Pike's "Purple Line" slideshow, featuring this and other explorations of the proposed transitway with local politicians and concerned residents.

Today, I joined Steve Silverman, his campaign manager, two volunteers, three guys from the Action Committee for Transit, a few Washington Post reporters (including the new Dr. Gridlock) and a cadre of photographers for a tour of the Purple Line from Langley Park to Bethesda via the Ride On 15 and Metrobus J3, two of the umpteen bus routes currrently serving that corridor. We met in a parking lot in Langley Park, surrounded by day laborers waiting to be picked up as the sun glowed a deep red above us. The first thing I thought upon seeing him for the first time was that he, like most politicians, is a lot shorter in person.

At 6:40 we followed the regulars onto a cramped Ride On bus headed towards Silver Spring. This was an actual bus - actually crowded with people who weren't all too happy to see a group of loud people with cameras join them on their morning commute. Silverman was especially chatty for this hour, which I appreciate in a politician. I peppered him with questions about the redevelopment that will occur along the Purple Line, which both he and the ACT guys discussed rather casually. "What do you say to the people who might be displaced by the redevelopment the Purple Line will cause?" I asked Silverman. "They're riding this bus right now."

Silverman responded with the standard MoCo Democrat piece about requiring affordable housing in each new development. He said this to me, not to the predominantly Latino crowd on the bus. A few minutes later, Steve tried to engage one guy in conversation, but he was more than unwilling to talk. One of the photographers was fluent in Spanish, meaning the guy might have taken him seriously - but wouldn't even give his name. What I wanted to say later on but never got a chance to was that certain immigrants are afraid to give out their information (for obvious reasons), and being accosted by a group of white people with a camera - on a bus, no less - doesn't seem too inviting.

But that's okay. There is a huge divide between these immigrant and lower-income communities - Langley Park, White Oak, Briggs Chaney - and The Rest of Montgomery County, and I gotta give Steve Silverman his due for at least trying to talk to the guy. Between he and Leggett he's the only one who's going to get these people off the bus, and that's what matters.

I asked Steve if he was familiar with the County Council Can-Can ("Steve, they made you a cockroach!") and he said no, instead suggesting that the Neighbors might have a little too much free time. "I'd be perfectly happy to discuss the issues with them," he said. (I really hope they take him up on that, by the way.)

At 7:05 the bus pulls into the Silver Spring Metro, where we were to meet a reporter from Channel 7, who missed us in Langley Park. I love the ambiance of the Silver Spring station as it, like all great urban places, forces a diverse array of people to be in contact with each other - sloppy skater kids, homeless people, rushed commuters, and politicians eager for a good photo op - or dozens of photo ops. I swear there was a camera going off with every step Steve took. We spent fifteen minutes at the entrance of the Metro as Steve shook hands with potential voters and talked to State Delegate Gareth Murray and County Council hopeful Tufail Ahmad. Silverman was also interviewed by the Channel 7 reporter, who was just a guy with a camera. Judging from that I'm guessing this will be on the evening news, but as nothing more than a minute-long piece. It just goes to show how much the TV media cares about something as un-sexy as public transit.

"What about the reporter from the Washington Hispanic?" one of the volunteers asked as Steve gets on the J3 to Bethesda. "We'll catch him at Bethesda," he responded. What? I thought. Given the predominantly-Hispanic communities the Purple Line passes through, don't you want as much press from the region's biggest Spanish-language publication as possible? Bad move, Steve.

Finally, we're on the J3, and moving a little faster than I normally do by myself. Judy Jablow, Silverman's campaign manager, tried to get him to look at his own billboard at Colesville and East-West Highway (which reads Want The Purple Line? Vote Steve Silverman . . .), but he's too busy talking to the Post reporter to notice. The cameras are still going off and our fellow passengers are all cowering, much as they were in Langley Park. I sat next to Richard Hoye from ACT, who was looking over some aerial photos of the Purple Line route provided by the campaign with a volunteer. I asked Richard if building this is as difficult as Robert Flanagan says it is. "No," he said. "This could have been built years ago." When asked about the Columbia Country Club, he said that their legal argument was "dead" and that they are now "on the defensive." If you remember, their lawsuit against using the Georgetown Branch for light rail went to the Supreme Court and lost all those years go. It was nice to hear something hopeful about the Purple Line.

I was in good spirits when the Silverman campaign hopped off the J3 in Bethesda, imbued with some skepticism about Silverman's personality (it's true: he is a bit self-possessed) but optimistic about his commitment to the Purple Line. The three women sitting across from me, who had been caught in the fray a few minutes earlier, were livid. "They were here Monday takin' pictures and I'm tired of that shit," one said. "They don't know me! I don't look good, and they're takin' pictures."

In closing: I left Langley Park at 6:40 this morning and did not arrive in Bethesda until 8:00. Discounting the twenty minutes we spent in Silver Spring, that is an hour-long commute to go six miles. This compares to my own commute from Calverton to Bethesda, which is an hour to go ten miles. Those numbers should speak for themselves.

Monday, August 7, 2006

the meet-and-greet continues . . .

Just Up The Pike has been invited to join Steve Silverman on a bus tour of the Purple Line route early tomorrow morning. Normally, I blanch at anything that requires me to be in Langley Park at 6:30 am, but the tour does end in Bethesda, where I work. This promises to be a better commute than normal - I wonder how my fellow passengers will react when they see the trip doesn't take forty-five minutes as scheduled.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

it's official: moco politics have gone south

The County Council Can-Can

I was really looking forward to a nice, clean fight this election year. It's only August and that great bastion of NIMBY ideals, the Neighbors for a Better Montgomery have already turned our County Council into cockroaches, or something like that. The animation's not clear enough to really tell.

You know how I feel about the Neighbors. There's no reason to go back into that. But things like this remind me of how vile this election season in Montgomery has gotten.

Friday, August 4, 2006

blogging in the big time

I have been picked up by Free State Politics, a collaborative blog featuring a number of our area's best and covering local politics. In the short run, that means you can read relevant Just Up The Pike pieces both here and on Free State Politics. In the long run, it means I'll have to watch both my back and my front for NIMBY attacks.

Speaking of NIMBYs: Check out this editorial from the Falls Church News-Press. Man, if only the Gazette had that kind of courage. (Thanks to BeyondDC for the heads-up.)

leggett for east county (what about the rest?)

"This area [Burtonsville] was not Rockville or Silver Spring. We were an outcast area, and people thought, 'We need people to run who reflect this general area.' - Ike Leggett on his first campaign

The Montgomery Sentinel has an interview with Ike Leggett today. I have a better understanding of Ike than I had before, but I'm very disappointed by the lack of passion about the Purple Line:

"Now, we've had the benefit of studies, and I've looked at [the Purple Line plans] and said, 'OK. If you do all these things plus what I've described, I'll support it.' So I'm not running from my record. What they've done is come closer to what I wanted. They've changed it, and they've changed it in my direction."

That's not encouraging. What is Leggett's ideal for the Purple Line? And how far is he willing to carry the study out before he gets exactly what he wants?

"[Steve Silverman] says that because he wants to commingle our positions because he realizes his position is not acceptable. I think he's trying to generate discussion about the Purple Line in order to detract from growth issue and to make it appear there's not a difference."

Why would Silverman make the Purple Line an issue? Because he does support a faster pace of development and is interested in making the necessary road and transit improvements to accomodate it. I should support Ike Leggett because I see him at Giant - but if he's not committed to projects outside of our immediate community, what good is he to the rest of Montgomery County?

Thursday, August 3, 2006

they aren't my Neighbors

"Beware the wolf in sheep's clothing! There is evidence that neighborhood associations in several areas of the county have been co-opted by development interests. Understand that neighbors of yours who have jobs in development related fields have a vested interest in controlling your association." - Where Are The Brakes?, p.10

The Neighbors for a Better Montgomery has published their list of endorsements for the Democratic primary in September. Each candidate is endorsed based on how much developer contributions they are willing to take, and that alone. I doubt they care if the candidate can read so long as they don't take checks from Evil Developers. Just look at their main goal for Montgomery County:

"Our first goal therefore should be to stabilize [population] at existing or nearby levels as soon as we reasonably can . . . Redevelopment [in Montgomery County] will continue, so long as any increase in jobs or dwelling units in one project or area of the county is balanced by an offsetting decrease elsewhere." - Where Are The Brakes?, p. 6

What they're saying is that if you've got some land out in Clarksburg and you want to put up a few hundred houses, they're cool with it - but a high-rise in Downtown Bethesda has to be imploded first. Or let's say you run a dentist's office and you want to hire a new assistant. NBM wants that to happen, but they're going to run one of those pupuseria trucks in Langley Park across the County line first. I may be a tax-and-spend liberal, but I think that's too much government intervention for my tastes.

Maybe calling them fascists is going too far. But as an aspiring architect and urban planner, I find their propaganda to be destructive. Whether or not the self-possessed NIMBYs of Montgomery County understand, this remains one of the best places to live in the country. That is the result of decades of sensible planning that, even today, remains light-years ahead of other communities. That we would have the gall to propose this kind of solution to the problems that come with growth suggests that people truly are desperate to protect little more than their property values.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

to avenge the death of the anchor inn

One gutsy letter-writer in the Gazette this week has probably been kicked out of the Homeowner's Association for suggesting should be more like Bethesda. He's actually got quite a point, despite the fact that development plans for the former Anchor Inn site in Wheaton have stalled even after the County's easing of redevelopment restrictions in the business district. Says the developer:

"Wheaton has missed the train through three development cycles, and it appears it could be left behind again."

That's right. The smoking ban killed the Anchor Inn, and now Wheaton's "friendliness" towards small businesses, many of whom were stifled by the development restrictions, will prevent anything from rising in its place, leaving a vacant lot at an important intersection.

Do you want to prevent people from getting stabbed in Wheaton? Well, the answer wasn't to lure all the high-end retailers and put them inside a shopping mall, leaving the surrounding streets dead, and it's certainly not to prevent business from growing outside of the mall, making it even worse.

There is no reason why we can't accomodate small businesses in a denser Wheaton. Has anyone considered that rents could go down if there was a glut of retail space downtown? I mean, I like Barry's Magic Shop too, but I'd take safe streets over card games any day.

local bloggers in the spotlight

Just Up The Pike was featured in the Examiner this morning in a story on bloggers and the County elections, and I can't help but feel like the reporter should have talked to me before Tuesday:

Reed, a sophomore studying architecture at the University of Maryland who started his blog in May, has “no idea” as to the effect he may or may not be having.

“I can only judge by the number of comments I got,” he said, “and the most I ever got was about seven.”

I'm surprised that we didn't hear more from other bloggers, let alone myself. I spent about ten minutes walking around Bethesda yelling into a cell phone for an interview, and that's my only quote =)

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

steve silverman is: nick naylor

Anonymous Commenter #217, a loyal reader, left the following comment this morning:

There's a pool being set up for bets on what Steve Silverman will do for a living after he loses the primary. My own guess is he'll become a lobbyist, probably working for Larry Shulman's law firm. And his biggest clients will be dvelopers (natch), oil companies, and cigarette manufacturers. In recent years Steve has taken positions favorable to all those groups. And what's your best guess?

Well, if Silverman loses, I'd put my money on him becoming a lobbyist too. He'd speak for all the Evil Corporations - Ryan Homes, ExxonMobil and Philip Morris - and, if he's lucky, they'll even make a movie about his eventual change of heart.

Now, which other County figures would make good movie characters? I'd like to know. I want to give Anonymous Commenter #217 his time's worth.

the squeaky wheel gets the grease

Keep your eyes peeled: Just Up The Pike will be featured in the Washington Examiner for a piece on bloggers and the Montgomery County Council elections.

As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and it's about time that the wheel stopped squeaking about plummeting property values. I spent an hour and forty-five minutes in traffic this morning, both on Route 29 and East-West Highway, for some unknown reason. You may say the Purple Line is a waste - but all it takes is one morning like this to get people to change their minds.